Many state DOTs around the country are currently contending with challenging workforce issues, whether attracting and retaining talented workers while competing with the private sector or preserving institutional knowledge amidst a wave of baby boomer retirements. An article in the latest issue of TRB’s bimonthly magazine makes the economic case for addressing another significant workforce issue: improving the notoriously poor gender and racial diversity of the transportation field. The article also makes the case for increasing neurodiversity in the transportation workforce.
Despite efforts to close the gender gap in many aspects of life, there are still some industries and activities where the gap hasn’t even been identified properly. One such example is mobility and public transportation. The idea that men and women have different travel behaviors is not new, but has not been given the attention it deserves. In a recent study, LA Metro staff surveyed 2,600 county residents, oversampling women, to understand trends in gender-based travel patterns. The staff found that the metro system does not serve men and women equally and the latter are always disproportionately burdened by costs and safety risks.
Research and design are based on a test case human who stands in for the broader population. The default human that is the basis for research and design projects is usually a white adult male. As a result, projects often come to conclusions that do not address the needs of women, and some that are outright dangerous. Transportation projects and priorities are not immune to this bias.
A recent study out of Transportation Research Procedia has found that women are less likely than men to use carsharing services due to childcare, household duties, and the need to make “chain trips” across multiple destinations for a variety of errands. Even in Germany—the EU country with the highest rate of women working—childcare, child transportation, and household tasks still fall predominantly to women.
A paper published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, outlines the dangers for women’s health of living near major roadways. Researchers following a group of nurses since 1976 found that those living within 50 meters of major roadways had a 38 percent greater risk of sudden cardiac death than those living more than 500 meters away.
For many decades, transportation planning has assumed continued increases in automobile use. Now, in a major reversal, the average American is driving considerably less. No one can predict the future with certainty, but there are many reasons to think that VMT trends will not revert to the 20th century trend. This paper lists some of those reasons, with references to supporting literature.
A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health concentrates on the lack of updated bicycle facilities standards in the the most widely used guides. The article’s authors focused specifically on their perception that cycle tracks—bike facilities separated from motorized traffic by a curb, parked cars, or other physical or painted buffer to discourage intrusion by motor vehicles—would increase bicycle transportation by older users, women, and children.
As commute times increase, married women work fewer hours or even drop out of the workforce according to a forthcoming article. The finding helps explain differences in women’s workforce participation across various metro areas. Its focus on travel time as a driver of economic outcomes, the article has clear relevance to transportation agencies that are wrestling with setting meaningful, outcome-based performance measures.